Sample 3 from Chapter 1. Introduction

Chinese, Korean, and Japanese Scripts

Let us have a preview of the scripts we learn about. The Chinese normally use only logographic Chinese characters, called Hanzi, but for special purposes they also have phonetic scripts--a Roman alphabet called Pinyin in the mainland and a sort of a syllabary called Zhuyinfuhao in Taiwan. The Japanese use Chinese characters, called Kanji, along with phonetic scripts, two forms of a syllabary, called Hiragana and Katakana. The Koreans use an alphabetic syllabary, called Han'gul, along with some Chinese characters, called Hancha. And English-speakers use a Roman alphabet that has upper- and lower-case letters.

Figure 1-4. The same sentence written in English, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean scripts.

Figure 1-4 shows the same sentence "I go to school everyday" written in two forms of English, three Chinese, three Japanese, and two Korean scripts. The foreign writings may look, well, foreign to you; they will become familiar as you read this book. The simple sentence "I go to school every day" written in characters, or characters mixed with phonetic letters, will be understood by speakers of Chinese, Japanese, or Korean, because some of the words and their characters are the same or synonymous across the three languages and their scripts. The same sentence written in a phonetic script of any one of the three languages would not be understood by anyone but speakers of that language. Needless to say, the same is true of spoken sentences. The longer and more complex a Chinese text, the harder it is for a Japanese or Korean to understand because of differences in syntax as well as in the words. We will discuss all these differences and similarities as we go through this book.

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